Foreword from author, Toby Feldman: 

As I wandered around the Facilities Show 2023 in the ExCeL Centre, London, chatting to managers from companies big and small, I was surprised. Without a moment’s hesitation, whenever I asked people: 

“What is the biggest challenge impacting your operations right now?”

They would respond along the lines of:

“Hiring! Absolutely. It’s really, really hard to fill vacancies at the moment”

Immediately, I put on my investigative hat and set out to try and find out more. The results are, to say the least, quite interesting! Before we move on, a little heads up… stay tuned on the IFM Community channels — exciting things are brewing.

Hiring in FM: context, market and operations

At first glance, a vacancy in FM doesn’t seem like it would be hard to fill.

This market is projected to nearly triple in size, from $42 billion in 2021 to $109 billion by 2028, with a remarkable annual growth rate of over 12%. It is an industry driven by innovation and technology, enabling new and exciting developments.

A quick search will show London-based vacancies for Heads of Estates paying upwards of £70,000, and Fire Door Inspectors paying over £50,000. This isn’t exactly loose change, is it?

The next parts of this article will explore 3 major challenges that may play into the talent-gap, and hopefully offer some concrete tips based on the research. I’ve handily named them the following:

  1. The Flexibility Gap
  2. The Age Gap 
  3. The Appearance Gap 

The Flexibility Gap

The Flexibility Gap refers to expectations that staff have in today’s world of work, and the possible misalignment that our industry offers in common packages. 76% of people want flexible working hours, but is our industry matching expectations? Are you still “office only”? 

During the pandemic, we saw the positive impact of having more control over work schedules on well-being, quality of life, and happiness. While some tasks require on-site presence, modern technology allows flexibility for many others. Employers can accommodate this by:

  1. Adopting a “remote first” policy, allowing staff to work from anywhere as long as on-site presence isn’t necessary.
  2. Covering travel expenses as a standard policy to show empathy and compensate for commuting time.
  3. We are providing perks like company cars, generous vacation and bonus allowances, and team socialisation opportunities.

These practices not only retain staff but also distinguish your company and attract more applicants.

The Age Gap

Like many traditional industries, such as security or aviation, the facilities management (FM) industry has gained a reputation as an “old person club,” and this perception is not entirely unfounded. The average age of an FM manager is 51, and 23% of FMs have over 20 years of industry experience. What message does this convey to young talent starting their careers? Are they even considering FM as a viable option?

While research published in the International Journal of Facility Management reminds us that many college students are unaware of the FM career path, there is a positive indication in the UK with the emergence of FM courses in universities, signifying a growing interest in the industry. 

FM and service companies need to do more to attract and support this younger generation of talent, especially considering that up to 30% of the current workforce will retire by the end of the decade. Churn is coming, and you need to be ready. 

Here are two simple steps that companies can take:

  1. Invest in young talent now and prioritise candidates with degrees in FM. It doesn’t make sense to risk losing the knowledge they’ve acquired at university by favouring candidates solely based on experience, which might discourage them from pursuing a career in the industry.

    It’s time to give them a chance!
  2. Diversify the training approach for young starters to create a positive experience. This can include training courses, shadowing opportunities with experienced team members, and exposing them to dynamic work events like industry shows, team socials, and retreats to foster a sense of connection.

    What did you want from your career at 23?

The Appearance Gap

This is the culmination of the challenges we mentioned earlier. How can we make candidates truly see how awesome our company is?

We already have two solutions:

  1. Increase flexibility and align compensation packages with industry expectations.
  2. Embrace young talent and provide them with opportunities to grow, ensuring a workforce ready for the future.

But there’s more to be done. We need to change people’s perception of the industry, not just for attracting young talent, but for everyone.

People seek a sense of uniqueness and being at the forefront of their field. And in today’s world, what represents that? Technology.

The technology used in the workplace reflects the company’s overall values. Opting for G-suite instead of Microsoft, for example, conveys a more modern, collaborative, and progressive image. Likewise, choosing Mac computers over Dell is vital in the creative industry because Mac offers superior user experiences for creative applications like Adobe and Photoshop.

The same is undeniably true in the facility and maintenance management world. Prospective employees want to use the best of the best — they’ll know that there are IMMPs on the market that allow them to work centrally and collaboratively, and they’ll be attracted by the proposition of having digital copies of documentation attached to their work orders because it means they won’t need to lug around big files!

This is critical — offering your staff and prospective employees the right tech changes the perception of your company and allows you to position yourself as a true market leader. 

We’re all in this together

You’re not alone. A staggering 84% of companies are also struggling to fill vacancies and it’s clear that we need to tackle this problem together. A mentality shift needs to happen and this comes from community efforts to better the industry for everyone. 

We’ve highlighted three opportunities to boost your success in hiring: 

  • Offer a more distributed work environment and show your candidates that you value autonomy, and flexibility and understand what they want. 
  • Get ahead of your competitors by prioritising young talent today! This means investing in internships, shadowing opportunities and company culture. 
  • Ensure you’re offering the absolute best-of-the-best when it comes to work tools. Provide your staff with a top-tier maintenance management system that they’ll brag to their mates about — nobody likes admin, and Infraspeak can cut that by 60%! (cough, cough)

Finally, one more thing. Research shows that candidates from a referral process tend to be more reliable and a better fit for your company. Now where… do we know somewhere that could help you meet other professionals that can share contacts…

Ah! The Intelligence for Maintenance community. This online group of nearly 1000 professionals offers networking opportunities, free learning resources and an easy way to stay up to date with news… but also has dedicated channels for hiring!

Share your vacancies and get a helping hand in finding the perfect candidate — after all, we’re all in this together.